By Zach Arnold | January 28, 2014
— MMAjunkie MMA (@MMAjunkie) January 28, 2014
Dana White pulled a page out of the Bob Arum playbook and did the media rounds in Los Angeles on Monday despite not having a local fight to promote.
Amazingly, the questions/talking points with all those who had access to Dana were very similar… almost in sync with each other. Funny how that works. Everyone made sure to ask Dana for his thoughts about Roy Nelson applying for the Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director job.
(Didn’t NSAC members claim they would keep the status of applicants silent until the interviewing process?)
Everyone asked Dana about his new boxing reality TV show. Everyone asked Dana about why boxing is so greedy but he’s not because he’s giving away “big fights” like Ben Henderson vs. Josh Thomson away on free TV, as Sportsnation allowed him to say. Max Kellerman even admitted on television that he had been in private negotiations to work for Zuffa. Charissa Thompson on Fox Sports continued the lapdog press tour.
Which makes the UFC’s media strategy on the testosterone (anabolic steroids) scam in combat sports all the more confounding. They are flailing away horribly and cannot keep a straight answer on the matter. They care about the subject enough to address it but don’t care enough to actually have a cohesive answer to address the problem at hand. It’s the worst of both worlds, really, and it’s very uncharacteristic for Zuffa (which maintains a monolithic media-treating strategy).
Just this past week alone, the answers about testosterone usage amongst UFC fighters went something like this:
- Dana White repeating claims that he punished the hell out of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva after testing positive for elevated testosterone levels after UFC had (quietly) approved Silva a permission slip to use testosterone on an Australia show they self-regulated.
- Dana White not comprehending how the Nevada State Athletic Commission, influenced by Lorenzo Fertitta & Sig Rogich, could possibly deny Vitor a permission slip to use testosterone.
- The Association of Ringside Physicians coming out against testosterone permission slips for all fighters in combat sports.
- Dana signaling a possible U-Turn on whether or not Vitor should get a permission slip to use testosterone.
Basically, the UFC’s media strategy on the anabolic steroid crisis in MMA (named Sherdog’s 2013 Story of the Year) can be opined & portrayed as part-trolling and part-throw-everything-at-the-press so that people just throw up their hands and give up. That’s a recipe for long-term disaster. This organization is months away from a possible scenario where Vitor Belfort becomes the next UFC Middleweight champion and they still don’t have a coherent strategy on how to handle the steroid crisis that they’ve helped manifest into the industry monster that it is today.
This is why the go-along, get-along media strategy Fox Sports has employed on UFC’s drug problem is going to turn out to be a detriment to UFC because the company simply is not prepared to handle the situation when it eventually blows up in their face — and it will.
Which brings us to this gem of an interview by Fox/UFC cheerleader Karyn Bryant with Dana White about Dan Henderson and testosterone usage amongst UFC fighters. Starting at 4:45 time mark:
KARYN BRYANT: There’s been some more talk about [testosterone]. You’ve been very vocal about saying you would like to just get rid of TRT use exemptions. Yes?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. I think that… you know, the best way to look at TRT is if you need TRT, you’re probably too old to be fighting. You should probably retire.
KARYN BRYANT: So, should Dan Henderson have retired then?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, I mean. Yeah.
KARYN BRYANT: You just signed him, though.
DANA WHITE: If you have to be on TRT, then yeah you probably, you know, if you have to be on some sort of drug that can keep you around to still compete, then the answer is yes. And from what I’m hearing, the doctors, you know, as far as the commission goes they’re all pretty much on board for getting rid of TRT which would be great for the sport.”
Vitor Belfort, an unabashed testosterone user, earned a UFC Middleweight title shot last November in Brazil by defeating another testosterone user in Dan Henderson.
Chael Sonnen, who Dana was busy pushing yesterday in the press for Ultimate Fighter Brazil with Wanderlei Silva, claims he needs to use testosterone or he’ll die.
The duplicitous & insidious spin from UFC on this issue is going to backfire badly on them. Erik Magraken has previously addressed the liability issues on Fight Opinion. We know how much power & influence the UFC has on the major state athletic commissions. It’s a historical fact that the UFC has been the major influential force when it comes to supporting & booking their top fighters who use testosterone. It wasn’t Bob Arum or Golden Boy or any other fight promoter that opened pandora’s box here. The UFC has not punished fighters for getting permission slips to use testosterone and they have given out such permission slips on shows they have self-regulated. They can’t have their cake and eat it, too, as much as they are trying.
The UFC is fortunate that Fox Sports, ESPN, and other media outlets are willing to go along with their media talking points. UFC has convinced the major sports networks that, outside of the NBA, they are the most appealing sport to the 18-to-34 year old male demographic. That’s what the sports networks covet. It’s why ESPN let Dana White “take over” their Sportscenter Twitter feed for UFC 168. Eventually, UFC will encounter a media entity that isn’t as interested in their sales pitch and will back them into a corner on anabolic steroid usage. And given the UFC’s incoherent public relations strategy so far on the subject, they’re not ready for prime time when the real investigative scrutiny begins.
Update (1/29/2014): Mike Fish, a heavy hitter from ESPN, is now covering the Vitor Belfort testosterone issue. Fish, along with TJ Quinn, are big time writers when it comes the issue of drug usage in sports. Fish reports that Tim Trainor, Keith Kizer’s right hand man at the Nevada State Athletic Commission, doesn’t believe Belfort should be given a permission slip to use testosterone.